A Brief History of UUNBThea

On October 25, 1995, a small group of adventuresome people responded to an ad in the Herald-Zeitung inviting those interested in forming a liberal religious group to meet in the home of Thea Chessher, shown at right. Consensus was reached to form a Unitarian Universalist congregation in New Braunfels, which was christened Comal County Unitarian Universalist Society. We covenanted not to give up on this wild idea before two years had passed. We elected to meet on Wednesday nights in our members’ homes, and all program topics were chosen and presented by our individual members. However, it did not take long for us to widen our scope to include knowledgeable and interesting persons from the NB community and beyond.

In April of 1996, Faith United Church of Christ offered meeting space to us at a ridiculously low rent, for which we are eternally grateful. The fledging of our new congregation would have been much more difficult without Faith’s many kindnesses.

In 1997 we adopted bylaws (Fran Hodges, chair), elected our first officers (Thea Chessher, president) and hired a quarter-time minister, the Rev. Les Pugh. In January of 1999, the Unitarian Universalist Association accepted us into membership, making our transformation into a recognized religious body complete!

In 2002 we began Sunday services at the Senior Center and formed our Religious Education program for children. We also kept Wednesday nights at Faith Church for Forums and study groups. During this time we were forced to tote materials back and forth between the two venues. This era was laughingly known as the ‘Church of the Sacred Car Trunk’.

After a deliberate, two-year study and an unanimous vote by the congregation, we were officially recognized by the UUA as a Welcoming Congregation in 2003. This means that LBGTQ persons always participate fully at all levels of congregational membership and leadership.

In 2005, Board President Tricia Stevens signed the papers which made us the owners of this piece of land at 135 Alves Lane, the place where we would build our very own church home! For the next two years we wrestled with the design of our building, getting ideas and wish lists from everyone in the congregation. In the end we voted to pursue this beautiful modern design by one of our own, architect Dwight Micklethwait. From the beginning, we built as “green” as we could afford, with careful siting and window placement, and a roof pitched for future water catchment.

Our members and friends gave much sweat equity and made many gifts so that we could move into our new church home. We painted inside and out, varnished doors, and tiled the walls and baseboards. Paul McGaffic fashioned from scratch the built-in bookcases and cabinets. Hymnals were donated. And we knew that success was our destiny when Jackie Russell and Jane Miller gifted us with our wonderful Steinway baby grand! And FINALLY...

Jan and Thea

Founding members Jan Estes and Thea Chessher
are still going strong in 2019.

On May 14 of 2008 Kelly Goulart led the first Wednesday Forum in our new church home! That Saturday, Judy Godinez facilitated our first community-wide event, a Pachamama environmental symposium "Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream". The next day, May 18, we held our very first Sunday service in our new Gathering Room. We called it "Celebration Sunday" and celebrate we did! But we waited until October 25, exactly thirteen years to the day after that first small meeting in Thea Chessher's living room, to dedicate the building which we now call home. We celebrated with an open house on Saturday and a very special Sunday service the next morning, followed by a delicious dinner prepared by Sandi Boyd, who not only was president of the congregation at the time, but chief cook and bottle washer as well.

In the intervening years, we have continued to grow in membership and service to the larger community through volunteerism in social services, the environment, justice issues and the arts. On October 25, 2015, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our founding and officially changed our name to Unitarian Universalists of New Braunfels. We stand poised to grow yet again!